As the light faded, I appeared in a darkened room with an empty video camera that was aimed at a table that had a broken and battered headless body on it. My old body. The man with the machete was wiping it off on the body's shirt and none of the men in the room had noticed the light. I pulled a Light sword hilt from one of my hidden pockets and turned it on. The three men turned when they heard the hum of the energy blade and stared at the bright blue light. I grinned at their shock and cut the three of them down in an instant.
It took me three hours to go through their safe house and kill them all, after making sure that the video of me being killed had already been uploaded. I also managed to retrieve the names and addresses of all the other places that my old self had been to when I was kidnapped. In less than a week, all of the places had been cleared and the kidnappers and torturers were killed. I even went so far as to go after the tour company representative that had received a payout for the video that they had made for the news. After a sufficient scare that made him admit that it was only him involved, I killed him, too. He had given the kidnapper the information on the tour bus and needed to die.
With that task done, I started to walk outside and I felt the invisible sapling on the top of my head react. I took it off my head, made it visible, and knew that I could use it as a divining rod to find out where it needed to be placed, since it had come from one.
I never imagined that it would be on Earth. I thought and then laughed. All those years I wasted walking around Maylia's planet and it didn't want to be planted anywhere!
I had the distinct feeling that the spot was very far away, so I went to the nearest airport and held the plant up to the destination board. I stood there and waited for it to find where it would want to go. I didn't try to influence it at all, and I could almost feel the sapling's appreciation for my patience. People stared at me and a few people laughed and pointed. I had my super long hair done up into a double folded ponytail, to keep it out of the way, and it looked like I was wearing a short cape made of hair. I had been used to it for centuries that I hadn't tried to hide it using Presence.
When the destination boards rotated and showed places back to the country where I used to live, I let out a bark of laughter when the sapling reacted. Several people were startled by my laugh and thought I was some kind of madman that was offering a plant up to the sky. I ignored them and looked at the first flight that was leaving, a red-eye overnight flight, and I walked over to where the gate was. I slipped behind a magazine display and covered myself in Presence and activated my Hide and Stealth techniques, then walked by the person boarding people.
I felt a little bad that I was hitching a ride without paying; but, there was no way I was trusting anyone in this flea-ridden country to convert a gold coin into proper currency. I'd do it once I got 'back' to civilization and I would buy a ticket on the same airline to come back here. I wouldn't take it, of course. I would be just paying for this flight. Mind you, I could probably just sit on the outside of the plane and cover myself in a protective barrier. I wanted to sit in comfort though, so I put the seedling back on the top of my head and sat down in one of the seats at the very back of the plane.
The plane was nearly full and the flight was going to be about seven or so hours long. I meditated the entire time. When we landed, I waited until most of the passengers had left before leaving myself. I had been invisible the whole time, so no one knew I was there. I left the airport and dismissed my stealth technique and went to the nearest town. I walked casually, since I wasn't really in a rush, and found a respectable bank. I quickly changed into the closest thing I had to a business suit and didn't bother trying to hide my mass of hair that looked like a short cape. That way, I looked like some exotic foreigner, and I stood in line. Everyone stared at me, especially the security guards, and I waited for an available teller. I approached the counter and spoke.
“Miss, I'd like to speak to someone about converting some gold into cash.”
The young woman stared at me and I could tell that she didn't know what to do.
“You can call over the manager and let him make the decision.” I said with a beaming smile and she took in a sharp breath.
“Y-y-yes, that... is a good idea.” The young woman said and left her seat. She walked over to a large office off to the side and knocked, spoke to the man, then they both came over to me.
“Ms. Smith tells me that you wish to initiate a commodities trade?” The manager asked me.
“Is that what's required?” I asked, slightly confused. “I thought I could just trade gold for the current market value, minus an appropriate conversion rate of course, then I could get cash in exchange.”
“That is a commodities trade, I'm afraid.” The man said. “May I ask what amount of gold would you be trading?”
“Just a few coins to pay for a plane ticket.” I said and took out a handful of gold coins and stacked them on the counter. The entire bank full of people stopped and looked over at the solid thunks of the coins as they hit the counter and clinked together.
“What... is the quality?” The man asked, very surprised at the weight of gold in front of him. Each coin was the size of a dollar coin and there were no markings. The young woman had stopped breathing and stared at the pile of gold and then at my face.
“As far as I can tell, it's 99% pure.” I said and handed him one. It was quite heavy and he caught it before he dropped it.
“Oh, my.” The man said. He glanced at the young woman and placed the coin back on the stack. “Normally, the bank won't handle such transactions; but, perhaps we could work out a personal trade and I will buy the coins from you.”
I pretended to think about it. “I guess it wouldn't hurt to discuss it.”
The man smiled and motioned to his office, so I picked up my coins and followed him to the office. He shut the door and pulled the shades on his office windows to block off the rest of the bank from looking in, then he sat down behind the desk.
“Do you know the current value of gold?”
“The last time I checked, it was just over twelve hundred dollars an ounce.” I said, and I felt the man's disappointment. “However, I don't plan on a personal exchange to be so lopsided in my favor. I'm sure that a thousand an ounce would be more reasonable.”
The man's disappointment vanished as he smiled. “That would be quite reasonable. Quite reasonable, indeed.” He said and picked up the phone. He asked for a scale, both normal and heavy if they were available, then he hung up and spoke to someone in harsh whispers. I could easily hear him and decided to let him think that I couldn't as I walked around his office and looked at the various pictures on the walls. The manager asked for several investors from the bank partners and quickly got approval.
The office door opened and the security guard brought in a small digital scale. “It can handle up to ten pounds accurately.” The man said and left.
“May I see one of the coins again?” The manager asked and I handed him one of the coins. He put it on the scale and the digital readout said it was a minuscule amount over one ounce. “The others as well?”
I handed each coin over and they were exactly the same. I could have told him that if he asked.
“Well, that is remarkable for completely unmarked coins.” The manager said and eyed the stack. “Would you be willing to part with all ten of them?”
He would make well over three thousand dollars, at least, so I teased him a little.
“Maybe just five? I'm not sure I'll need more money than that.” I said and the man's hands crimped a little and he tried to hide his anxiety. “Then again... I won't really need gold where I'm going, so...” I took out another handful and stacked ten more coins next to the first stack, then added another.
The man's face showed completely unfiltered joy. “That would be delightful.”
He left the office, almost at a run, and came back several minutes later. He had something like a velcro money pouch and opened it up with a tearing sound. It unfolded like a tri-fold wallet and inside were three stacks of bills. He took them out and counted ten thousand dollars and put one stack back, then did it again and again, folded the money pouch closed and slid it across the table to me.
“I hope this is acceptable.” The manager said and slipped his business card into the side of the pouch.
I smiled and took the pouch and tucked it into my inside breast pocket. “More than acceptable.” I said. “Thank you for helping me, despite the bank's policy.”
The manager's eyes were aglow with mirth as he slipped the coins into his desk drawer. “That's why we always have a bit more leeway when dealing with things like this on a personal level. I had been tempted to contact a friend of mine and set up a commodities trade account for you; but, you seemed to be in a rush and I doubt you would want to wait a week for everything to be set up.”
“A week?” I chuckled and stood. “I didn't even want to stand in line for half an hour!”
The manager laughed and stood as well. “I hope you have a great day, sir.”
“Thank you.” I said and I left the office. When I walked by the tellers, I stopped and took out a silver coin, walked over to the teller I had spoken to before. “Here's a keepsake.” I said and gave it to her. “It's pure silver.”
“Th-thank you.” The young woman said and held it as if it was as precious as the gold coins were.
I nodded and left the bank and walked back to the airport. I went over to the local destination board this time and waited. I watched the board as it flicked through all the local destinations and felt a pang when a town I didn't know appeared.
“You want to go there, huh?” I asked the invisible sapling on my head and felt a definite affirmative. I walked over to the ticket counter and bought two tickets. One was for a trip back to the other country I had hitched a ride on without paying, and another to go to the town the seedling liked.
“Sir, both of these flights are leaving within an hour of each other.” The woman behind the counter said. She was also surprised that I didn't have any baggage.
“That's okay. I won't be taking that one.” I said and pointed to the first ticket.
“Then why did you buy it?” The woman asked and handed them to me.
“I owed the airline the money.” I said and tore the first ticket in half. “Thank you.”
The woman stared at me as I walked towards the departure gate I would be leaving through. I didn't want to deal with security, even though I could easily trick the scanners with Presence, so I used Stealth and slipped by them. I waited around for two hours at the right gate and then handed in my ticket at the counter when they called for boarding passengers.
The woman there gave me a genuine smile as she handed me back the stub. “Please enjoy your flight.”
“With a warm smile like that, how could I not?” I asked and her face flushed red. I gave her a smile in return and walked down the boarding tube to the plane in the line with the other passengers. The stewardess that was supposed to greet me froze in shock at the site of me. I held in my laugh at her thoughts and looked through the plane to find my seat. I pointed to my ticket stub and walked by her without a word and went right to my seat.
I ignored the other passengers reactions and took several breaths and shifted my attention to my constant semi-meditative state. I could feel the traces of Presence around me and my body constantly cycled it through to keep myself healthy and fit. I still needed to eat occasionally to get the nutrients that I couldn't get otherwise, and for the taste.
I need to stop at a fast food place. I thought and shifted my attention back to my conscious state. I haven't had a hamburger in ages!
During the flight, the stewardess that I had shocked by my appearance had gathered up the courage to approach me. She was actually supposed to be in the first class cabin and had switched shifts with her friend to see me. I thought that was endearing, considering how much harder it was dealing with the normal and usually unruly passengers.
“Sir, can I get you anything?” The woman asked, her voice full of hope and her mind full of other things.
“How long is your layover at our destination, Diana?” I asked her and she caught her breath.
“S-s-six h-hours.” She said, shakily.
“That should be plenty of time.” I said and gave her a huge smile. Her heart fluttered and beat oddly in her chest. I reached out and took her hand and she gripped it with a hidden strength. I ran my Presence through her and found the slight heart arrhythmia. I touched it with my Presence Healing and her face changed from apprehensive hope to happiness.
“I'll be right back with a magazine and a drink for you.” Diana said, her voice now steady and full of confidence.
“I would appreciate that.” I said and let her hand go. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
“Miss! I'd like a magazine and a drink, too!” A woman said from the next aisle.
“I'll be right back with the cart.” Diana said happily and left.
For the first time in as long as Diana could remember, the passengers in the general section weren't making a ruckus. They treated her with respect and didn't cause problems. The absolutely gorgeous man she had met when he boarded the plane was in that section and she had traded her lucrative first class position to see him again. She didn't expect anything to happen, except to maybe admire him and to memorize as much of him as she could, so that she could fantasize about him later. It was also the first time that she regretted that it was only a short flight of a few hours.
When the gorgeous man had spoken her name and asked her how long she would be on layover, her whole body had vibrated and she could barely speak. She couldn't believe it. When he said it would be plenty of time, she almost had a heart attack. Could it really be happening now? She felt the familiar pressure building in her chest and then the man took her hand. She felt the tingles and worried she would have a massive heart attack right there on the plane, then she realized that if she could spend the last few moments of her life with him, then it wouldn't be so bad.
The pressure in her chest miraculously disappeared as if it never existed and she felt such relief that she couldn't help but let her face show it. She quickly got the cart and handed magazines and soft drinks out to everyone that wanted them. She didn't even ask for their credit cards and handed everything out as if it was free. By the time the flight was nearing the destination, every person in her section were happy and had enjoyed their flight immensely. She walked around with the cart again and gathered up the magazines and empty cans and bottles.
The last place Diana stopped was beside the man who was going to be her... date? Liaison? Fancy dalliance? The thoughts made her laugh. She had never done anything like this before, despite all of the offers and the opportunities. She wouldn't even date the pilots, that way she could always act professional at work and she never had to compromise her morals for a bit of naughty fun at work.
As if he had read her mind, while she took the magazine and the empty bottle from him, he told her that he hadn't eaten in a long time and would like to take her out for dinner. She agreed and said that she just had to change her clothes. She always brought a small personal suitcase of clothing, just in case the layovers were longer than they normally were. She was about to walk away when he caught her hand and discretely shoved something into it.
“For all the drinks.” He whispered to her and let her hand go.
Diana had completely forgotten that she would have to pay for it all. She nodded to him and tucked the money into her pocket as she left with the cart. She took it back to the galley and then tallied up everything. She nearly had another heart attack when she had the final total. One drink or two, you barely notice the cost. When it was a hundred or so? It was definitely noticeable. She held in her sigh as she pulled out the money her gorgeous soon-to-be date had given her.
It's probably just a handful of ones. Diana thought and unfolded it, then she gasped. Hundreds! He gave me a pile of hundred dollar bills! She counted them out and it was over a thousand dollars. She took several deep breaths and tried to calm down. Okay. Okay. I must be dreaming. She closed her eyes and her hands closed on the money. No, it's real. He really gave me twelve hundred dollars for soft drinks!
Diana calmed down a few minutes later and took the money needed to pay for the beverages, which was just under four hundred dollars, and she put the rest of the money in her pocket. She would give him the money back when she could do it without looking suspicious.
The plane landed and taxied to the terminal and she did her job of thanking the passengers for flying with them. Each and every one of her passengers thanked her in return for one of the best flights they had ever been on. The service and friendliness had been top notch and they complimented her on doing such a great job. Diana had been flabbergasted at the outpouring of praise. She was so shocked by it, that when the last passenger to leave the plane was her gorgeous soon-to-be date, she thanked him as if he was a normal passenger.
“I'll wait in the lounge for you.” The man said as he shook her hand, and she was surprised when the other stewardesses didn't react to his words. He walked away and she turned to her friend.
“I'm heading off to get changed.” Diana said to her and her friend laughed.
“It's only a six hour layover.” Her friend said. “Why change when you have to change back for the return flight?”
Diana hesitated for only a second and then she spoke. “I have a date.”
Her friend's mouth dropped open in shock. “Oh. My. GOD!” She yelled. “Who is it? WHO?”
Diana and the other stewardesses laughed at her reaction.
“It's a secret!” Diana said and ran to grab her bag, then she ran by them and out the door. “Bye!”
“Get back here and tell me!” Her friend yelled and shook her fist at her, and everyone laughed again.
Diana ducked into the crew section of the airport after having her bag checked for contraband, then she pulled out one of her favorite dresses. She usually saved it for going out with the girls and for showing off her figure, so she hoped that he would appreciate the effort she was going through. She snorted a laugh at the thought of a man noticing how hard a woman worked to get ready. She changed and styled her brownish-blonde shoulder length hair a little, added touches of makeup on her cheeks to cover a slight blemish, added a thin line of eye shadow, then used a black pencil eyeliner to draw around her eyes.
Diana blinked her eyes and decided to add two swishes of eyelash extender and thickener, nodded at her stunning reflection, then stuffed her bag into the locker she always used when she was there. She put the man's money into a small clutch purse that matched her dress, then slipped her feet into slightly heeled shoes and left at a fast walk. She crossed the crew area and entered the airport and went to the large lounge to look for him. She was a bit worried that she would have to waste time trying to find him among all of the people there, then she saw him.
He stood alone near the entrance to the lounge and there was a five foot area around him that no one else seemed able to cross into. No one paid him any attention and that surprised her. She took a shallow breath and walked into the lounge and over to him. He gave her a huge smile and she returned it.
“You look stunning.” He said in his melodic voice and she felt a tingle go down her spine. “Ready to go?”
“Y-yes.” Diana said and he put a hand behind her back and led her out of the lounge.